Pearl Valuation: A Pearl Buyer’s Guide

Understanding how pearls are graded and valued is crucial before making a pearl jewellery purchase. This guide provides information consumers can use to compare and evaluate pearls and pearl jewellery.

So what is pearl valuation? Simply put, pearl valuation is the term used to describe the quality and value of a pearl or pearl set. It is determined by seven key pearl attributes: type, size, luster, inclusions, shape, matching, and nacre:

Type: – There are many different types of pearls, but the most popular, in order of value, are Freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea.

Size: – Pearls range in size from a couple of millimeters to over 15 millimeters depending on the type. The larger the pearl, the more rare and valuable it is.

Luster – is the brightness or radiance of light from a pearl. A high quality pearl will be brilliant and bright, and you should be able to easily see your own reflection in its surface.

Inclusions – sometimes called blemishes, are imperfections in the surface of the pearl. These may be cracks or bumps in the surface. The fewer imperfections, the greater the quality and value of the pearl.

Shape – pearls come in a number of different shapes including round, off-round, oval, baroque, and ringed. Round pearls are the most desired and valuable.

Matching – the ability of a set of pearls to resemble or harmonize with each other is referred to as matching. The greater the matching, the greater the value of the piece of pearl jewelry. Of course, matching only applies to multi-pearl jewellery.

Nacre – is the layers of aragonite and conchiolin that form around the pearl’s centre. The thicker the nacre, the longer a pearl will typically last.

All of these attributes are used to determine the quality and value of pearls and pearl jewellery. By knowing and understanding these, you are in a better position to know what to look for and what you are purchasing.

Of course, many people ask: “What about the rating?” Most pearl jewelers offer a single rating for the pearls they sell. The most common rating scale used is A, AA, and AAA, but other popular ones include “good”, “better”, and “best” and A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. As you can see, because there is no standard rating scale for pearls, the actual rating only has meaning at a single jeweler. What results is an AAAA pearl strand at one jeweler is equivalent to a “good” strand at a second jeweler which is equivalent to an AA strand at a third jeweler. In other words, what is important is not the rating scale used by any particular jeweler but how the actual attributes compare across jewelers. That is the key to buying pearls and pearl jewellery.